From Reuters, with thanks to Andy Bannister:
DUBAI (Reuters) – A rebel group in the besieged Iraqi town of Falluja has threatened to target Christians and destroy churches, and called on Pope John Paul and the United Nations to stop the U.S. siege, Al Arabiya said on Sunday.
The Dubai-based Arab television channel said the threats came in a fax it received from a group in Falluja called “Saraya wal Mujahideen” (Brigades and Mujahideen).
It was not clear if it was the same group as the one holding Japanese hostages in Iraq.
The group threatened to destroy churches in return for U.S. attacks on mosques, assassinate or kidnap priests, and target Christians if killing of Muslims did not stop, Al Arabiya said.
“They issued a statement calling on the U.N. secretary general, Pope John Paul II and all Christian groups to intervene immediately to end the siege of Falluja and all Iraqi cities,” Al Arabiya’s presenter said.
It gave no more details.
There were indications on Saturday that rebels in Falluja were willing to agree to cease-fire talks if U.S. Marines withdrew to outside the city. A delegation representing Iraq’s U.S.-backed Governing Council and other Sunni leaders managed to visit Falluja for talks with religious and anti-U.S. leaders.
Iraq, a mainly Muslim country with a Christian minority, has seen a surge in fighting. Hundreds of Iraqis and 52 U.S. or allied troops have been killed in a week of battles with Sunni and Shi’ite militias.